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Traveling from Germany to nearby country

We have a day trip planned where the starting point will be in Germany and going to France by train.

How does passport control work when traveling between countries? Do you have to present your passport at the time you buy the train ticket? Do they check during the train trip or is there a checkpoint? Do they check passports when you leave the train in the foreign country?

What about traveling from France back to Germany, how does passport control work in that situation?

We want to make sure we are carrying the correct documentation (stamped passports, etc.) with us as we cross borders to make sure there are no issues.

Thank you!

Posted by
89 posts

One of the great benefits of the European Union is that, since 1993, no passport control is required.

From the EU website:

The Schengen area is a travel zone without borders between the 27 Schengen countries. It allows EU nationals and many non-EU nationals to travel freely without border checks. Since 1985, it’s kept growing, and now covers almost all EU countries and a few non-EU countries (Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland). It guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU nationals.

Any person, irrespective of nationality, can travel between Schengen countries without going through border checks. However, national authorities can carry out police checks at borders between these countries and in border areas.

Posted by
36 posts

Both France and Germany are part of the Schengen area and there are open borders between those countries. You will show your passport when you arrive in Germany and then when you are flying home. I have traveled by train to/from/between France, Germany and other bordering countries which are part of the Schengen area, I was never asked for a passport when buying or using train tickets. That being said, I always had my passport with me as I was switching destinations....and a copy of my passport in a different bag.

This may help->

Posted by
8 posts

Julie -
thank you for the information and the link!

It seems odd that you go through passport control when you fly into a European country, but once you are there you can move freely between countries without additional checks.

Posted by
20254 posts

Not odd at all, any more than you don't have to show your drivers license to go from Minnesota to Wisconsin. Unless you are flying. In Europe, you will have to show your passport (your only legal ID) to get on an airplane.

Posted by
2343 posts

Be aware that still customs and import rules are valid which means that you are not allowed to transport everything in unlimited amounts over a border. If you travel by car for example it is possible that they do random tests, same by airplane.

Example: There is a very hard restriction for alcohol transport into the Nordic countries which is often checked. In summer also sailing boats in typical first harbors may be checked, especially for alcohol and cigarettes.

Example 2: Germany is checking hard against drugs at the border to the Netherlands, also in trains.

And everybody, please do not try it: every country is not kidding when it comes to customs.

Posted by
5407 posts

dsg6806 - Not weird at all. The countries within the Schengen zone of Europe agreed long ago to these terms. Moving from Germany to France is like crossing a state line in the United States.

As a note to Sam, it is very unusual now for airlines to check IDs when flying within Schengen. I have flown many times in recent years (most recently Vienna to Zagreb and Zagreb to Vienna last week) with only scanning my ticket.

Posted by
15245 posts

While there is no official passport check, they sometimes do spot checks. So have your passport ready just in case.

Posted by
6470 posts

Not at all odd. And it's not the only such area in the world. There is a similar one in Latin America: And there is also the Nordic passport union that abolished passport requirements between the Nordic countries in the 1950s, and the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK. Just note that you have to have your passport with you when you cross the border, even if it probably won't be checked.

Example: There is a very hard restriction for alcohol transport into
the Nordic countries which is often checked.

Sort of. You are allowed to bring as much alcohol as you want from other EU countries if it's for your own personal consumption. But if you have very large amounts you'll need to prove it or customs might seize it.

Posted by
32921 posts

although you are travelling within the Schengen Zone of free movement of people, when crossing borders you should always have your passport with you. Some people elect not to carry it within a country but it is your only form of legal ID in Europe (foreign driving licenses aren't) so it is always wise and in some countries required.

Posted by
6583 posts

As others mentioned above, do have your passport with you. There are occasional checks, like last year when I took the train from Hamburg to Copenhagen and we had to show our passports at the border. Luckily mine was handy.

Posted by
6664 posts

There's all sorts of cooperation across the France-Germany border, dsg6806, including special inexpensive day passes for day-tripping train-travelers crossing the border. Are you aware of these already? If not, let us know which French city/town you plan to visit.

Posted by
4162 posts

Just curious.

Where in Germany are you starting from and returning to? Where in France are you going?

Is this your first trip to Europe?

Posted by
8 posts

Lo -

this will be our fourth trip to Germany.

Our plan right now is to travel from Gengenbach to Strasbourg for a day trip.

Posted by
477 posts

Just a note: A passport is NOT the only legal ID in Europe. European driver's licenses are not IDs, but personal ID cards are, and these are sufficient for Europeans flying within Europe (Schengen, at least). A US driver's license is considered a legal ID as well, so if you need to pick up mail or otherwise simply prove your identity, a US DL is also sufficient.

That said, you should carry your passport just in case. We almost always do when traveling within Europe. But other than being asked for ID once when entering Denmark from Germany (in countless trips as my sister lives there), I have never been asked, whether by train or car. We used our passports more by default when we flew to Malta, but I think ID would have been sufficient. Most of the time you don't even notice you have crossed a border other than a sign or maybe the language of the announcements on the train.

You are VERY unlikely to be asked, but if you are, a passport is sufficient.

Incidentally, you will LOVE that day trip!

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you HowlinMad.

This will be the first time we cross borders once we land in Germany so the protocol is a bit new to us.

When traveling within Germany, we always carry a copy of our passport (along with other ID) in the event anything comes up.

Posted by
6583 posts

Oh, that will be easy and there will probably not be a border check as it's such a short trip. I did that last year - you just take the train from Gengenbach right into Strasbourg, with a transfer in Offenburg. The train station is within walking distance of everything.

Don't forget to get your KONUS card from your hotel as that will give you a free ride to the border. Then you just purchase an inexpensive ticket that gets you to Kehl, the last German town before the border. I bought the Europass 24h mini pass, which is a return tkt that covers the route to Strasbourg and back the same day for €6.80 (at that time - not sure what it is now). You can buy it from a ticket machine in Gengenbach or in Offenburg (where you change trains for Strasbourg) or you can get it online. Scroll down to the very last ticket offer:

The trip took me about 40 minutes. Make sure you keep your Europass for the return trip and have your KONUS card with you.

Posted by
6664 posts

Just as mardee says... but "we" means you will want the "family" version of the Europass 24h mini, priced at €11.20. At the linked page, click first on "Departement, regional, and cross-border tickets" - then scroll to the end for Europass info.

I will add this one instruction: While the KONUS card is valid to the town of KEHL only, the train you ride to Kehl will continue to Strasbourg... So do not get off in Kehl, just stay on board, keeping your the Europass ticket you purchased back in Gengenbach handy for inspection when the train to Strasbourg leaves Kehl station.

The journey includes one change of train in OFFENBURG in each direction.

KONUS information with rail map: